I had definitely heard of folk singer/songwriter Amos Lee before this week but frankly knew next to nothing about him or his music. Then, due to circumstances I’ll get to later, I was forwarded the following note, which Lee had just issued to his fan mailing list on the day he released his newest album, My New Moon:
This album is a dedication. It’s an offering – an altar of sorts to those who have shared their sorrows with me. For a period of time I was feeling barren and defeated, fed up with myself, with traveling and with touring. I had a strange sense of entitlement that led me into a mirrored room of frustration, illusion, and exhaustion. I was listless, lost and buried in a bunker of my own self-importance and self-loathing. That all changed in an instant.
In a small, tented gazebo in Lowell, Massachusetts in 2011, a husband and wife approached me at a meet-and-greet after a show, and had with them a basketball card of their 11-year-old son, Jack. They huddled close, pointed down to his beaming smile, wearing his Celtics jersey, holding a basketball, and shared with me that he passed the year before after a long fight with cancer. They explained to me with warmth and grace that the music I made was important to them in their final days with Jack, and that they still listened together at home, in the sacred hours when they wanted to feel musically connected to him.
It was a moment of immediate transformation for me. I was blindsided by their generosity and openness. In all their depth of grief, they took the time and energy to come to my show, to wait in the rain, and to offer me such a deeply personal and powerful lesson. In meeting them, in this simple exchange, I felt a renewed purpose. I now wanted to release the self-importance that shuttered me in, and expose myself to other people’s stories, embrace them, and experience others first. This beautiful couple left me with Jack’s card that night, and when I got home from that tour, I put it on my bookshelf next to my family photos. Sometimes when I walk past his card, I say hello to Jack and his parents, and hope that they are all somewhere feeling peace.
This year it was my turn to experience a great and significant life-changing loss, and these songs helped me find peace in that grieving process. The songs on this, my 7th album, are more yours than mine. I feel so grateful to have the opportunity to share, and to listen, to bring more music for you to rejoice, console, reflect, and disappear into darkness, light, big sun, and new moon.
I’ve seen some album dedications in my life, but this one stopped me cold. I had to re-read it multiple times to try to better grasp the entirety of its sentiments while still reeling from the story. And I was left with a sense of awe. First, for the strength of the couple left to cope with their unfathomable loss but retaining, as Lee noted, the grace to relate their eternal connection to Lee and to his music. Next, for Lee, whose exquisite words reflect his ability to have made that interaction transformative, to honor the memory of a boy he never knew, in order that he might continue to make the type of music which could impact others, redirecting the purpose of his work outward rather than internally, and in so doing, positively altering the course of his own still young life. And, of course, awe for the ever-present potency of music, this heart-wrenching story being just the latest example of the unique, life-altering power potentially granted from just words and notes. It’s nearly impossible to explain, yet it’s undeniable.
So, how did this gripping story cross my path? My friend Jody, knowing my rather obsessive interest in music, casually asked me if I knew Amos Lee, then provided me the dedication above. Jack’s parents, Janet and Dennis, are close friends of hers, and are the husband and wife who approached Lee in 2011. Incredibly, they had no idea whatsoever that Lee was going to issue this dedication, having had no contact with him since their emotional but brief encounter 7 years before. That gives me goose bumps.
In support of his new album, Amos Lee will soon be embarking on a fall cross-country tour, beginning with two traditional New York stops, at NYC’s Beacon Theater and at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester. I’d like to think that maybe Janet and Dennis will make at least one of those shows, and that somehow they’ll be able to reunite with Amos. I’ll be rooting for them all.